Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


The home inspector must learn to crawl before he can walk.


Home inspectors often have to crawl over, under and inside things in the process of inspecting a home.  It is not a job for the claustrophobic, or those that do not possess an irrational sense of adventure, or unrealistic curiosity. 

Of course every inspector will have their own line-in-the-sand as to what they will do and won’t do, but generally speaking, as a group, home inspectors tend to do what no one else in their right mind would do.

On a recent inspection, while traversing the attic I had to crawl through an unusual tunnel between two chimneys that had been corbelled together so that they could both pass through the roof at just one location---instead of two.

corbeled chimney 

I guess finding this in the attic I should have been prepared for what it would take to get from one side of the crawl space to the other.  I wish I could have filmed myself crawling under this duct. 

crawl space access 

Laying on one’s back, it was possible to slither under the duct---but it was a little disconcerting having no way to really know what was on the other side until I got there.

Of course it was well worth the trip, as there was extensive water damage in the crawl space on the other side.

It is my business model to do what it takes to provide the best information I can---sometimes it just is not possible and I have to recommend that proper access be made and that I be called back for further evaluation.  I don’t like it when I am forced to become one of the things that keep the process from moving along.

Plus, the more difficult the access, the more likely nobody else has been willing to go in there either, and the more likely there will be things that need to be discovered.


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Comment balloon 13 commentsCharles Buell • January 27 2013 08:07AM


Charles - it seems like this inspection was an adventure you are not soon to forget. Buyers and sellers should use Charles Buell for the most detailed and thorough home inspection.

Posted by Les & Sarah Oswald, Broker, Realtor and Investor (Realty One Group) about 6 years ago

Charles-It's a good thing your in good shape! Thanks for the photos.



Posted by Adrian Willanger, Profit from my two decades of experience (206 909-7536 about 6 years ago

Hi Charles,

I have only seen these kinds of chimneys a couple of times. What's scary is when they are only I the attic and not in the inside of the home anymore. No longer in use and weighing too much to just let them be. They needed to be removed.

Good shots of our struggles inspecting.

Have a very good Sunday in Seattle my friend.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) about 6 years ago

I will crawl to anywhere I feel it is safe for me to do so. I have crawled into places I had to back out of, but I am getting a little more skittish as I get 

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 6 years ago
Home inspectors definitely have some adventures not for the faint of heart! Even without a video, I am SO picturing your duct slithering maneuvers..... :)
Posted by Nancy Conner, Olympia/Thurston County WA about 6 years ago

Weird chimney. Never seen one like it. Again, what's a crawl space? :)

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 6 years ago

Sarah & Les, thanks---they are all adventures :)

Adrian, I am not sure whether it keeps me in shape or I am in good shape

Clint, this was the first one I ever could crawl through---since the one in an old Connecticut farm house that was hollowed out as part of the underground railroad.

Fred, those that one gets into where you can't turn around can be difficult for sure

Nancy, but the video sure would be fun :)

Jim, I have never seen one split like this either.  A crawl space?  Not worth knowing about :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 6 years ago

Wow, talk about a gauntlet!  Isn't that dimple under the tubing a bit like Houdini's trick in getting an elephant to the other side of a blanket?

That video would have been fun!  Did you strip down to your tool belt to fit?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Jay, I actually had to take the tool belt off for this one :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 6 years ago

Charles -- well with that tunnel under the ductwork at least one other person had gone through there before.  The problem will be in the future, when we have all gotten bigger, and no one, except a child could get through there.  BTW -- did you determine where the water was coming from?

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) about 6 years ago

Charles - Thanks for taking us on the trip to the unknown. Few know what it is like to go where you inspectors go. Your description of getting to that "other side" is great; crawling through before knowing what is over there. I feel like I was there with you!

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage Mobile - 916-765-5366) about 6 years ago

Steven, yes---the sill plate was in poor condition due to the patio being improperly installed over it.

Tom, I am sure you have been in similar situations :)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 6 years ago

Charlie, Love the chimney, that is almost art, or did Art do it ; ) I have had a few of those access trenches they can be a little disconcerting.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago